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Embarrassing Behaviors

Monday July 31, 2023

Embarrasing Situations Blog

We hear the stories all the time from family caregivers of their loved ones with memory impairment saying or doing something embarrassing in public.

You are sitting in church, and the prayer is a bit long-winded. Mom leans over to you and says LOUDLY: “Is he ever going to shut up?”

You are in line at the grocery store, and your wife says to you, “Wow… she sure is a fat one!” while pointing at the customer in front of you.

You are at a restaurant and your dad walks over to the next table and starts talking to the baby at that table.

You are at a social gathering and your husband wanders over and starts eating the food off someone else’s plate.

You are having a conversation with the banker about some business and your wife starts interrupting and repeating herself. 

Your loved one with memory impairment is inappropriately flirting with others.

Do any of these situations sound familiar? This blog post is for you!

Why do these things happen?

Your loved one has a broken brain. Things they might have NEVER done before, they do now. Most people with healthy brains have a “filter” between their mouths and their brains that keeps them from saying and doing things that are socially inappropriate. Your loved one does not have this anymore, and it is not their fault.

Also, your loved one might be confused, in a bad mood, overwhelmed, or tired.

They might not recognize loved ones anymore, so they think that everyone (even strangers) is a loved one.

And/or your loved one could have an infection that is causing increased confusion and odd behaviors.

These situations can happen often. While it’s embarrassing for you, it’s important for you to help preserve your loved one’s dignity.

Approaches we see but do NOT recommend:

  • Turning to the offended person and saying, “Oh sorry. My loved one has Alzheimer’s disease and is confused.” This could really upset your loved one and embarrass them. They might not know or remember they have a brain disease.
  • Correcting your loved one. “Mom, that was rude. Don’t say that.” Or “Dad, leave them alone.” This may upset your loved one, and chances are, they won’t understand. Scolding is of no benefit because the lesson will not stick.

Instead, try this when find yourself in an embarrassing situation:

  • Take a breath and stay calm.
  • Offer a quick and discreet apology if it seems appropriate.
  • Carry some cards with you that you can hand out to any involved party. The cards should say, “Please excuse any unusual behavior. My loved one has dementia. Thank you for your patience.” You can make your own, buy cards, or come by and pick up some cards from Page Robbins.
  • Redirect and distract your loved one. You could say something like, “Dad, let’s let these sweet people finish their dinners.” Or “James, let’s head inside before it gets too hot.” Or “Mom, we forgot to eat a snack today. Let’s go find one.” Any excuse to get your loved one away from the situation?

Make note of the times these embarrassing behaviors happen. If it happens while you are out shopping, change your routine, so your loved one no longer accompanies you on these outings. If it’s later in the evening, plan to be home during these hours.

As mentioned above, we have some cards available that you can hand out to explain unusual behavior. Give us a call at 901-854-1200 to let us know you are interested in the cards, and we will put some at the front desk for you. As always, call us if you need help working through your specific situation.

Written by Sheri Wammack, LBSW